Martha’s Italy 2022 travels took us to the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome and a few hidden gems in Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, and Lazio to the north of Rome. It was great to start traveling again! These are my 5 top picks for places to go from 2022. Add a couple of these places to your next Italy travel itinerary.
Rome – Testaccio Neighborhood
Our 2022 travels started with a week in an apartment in Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood, below the Aventine Hill. Once the area of slaughterhouses, this is where you’ll find the most traditional Roman foods, some of them made with offal, the parts left to the slaughterhouse workers after the animals were butchered. There aren’t any big tourist attractions but it’s a good neighborhood for experiencing local life. Testaccio has a great covered food market, good restaurants, and nightclubs along the side of the Monte Testaccio, a small hill made of discarded Roman amphora. On one side of the neighborhood is the Pyramid and the Non-Catholic cemetery where several famous foreigners have tombs and across the river is the lively Trastevere neighborhood.
Where we stayed: Apartamenti con Vista Piazza Testaccio, an apartment with view of the main piazza and a short walk to the large covered market.
Modena with Italian Culinary Adventures
Modena, northwest of Bologna, is known for Balsamic vinegar and Ferrari but it also has a wonderful historic center that includes a beautiful 12th century Romanesque cathedral. We visited Modena for 3 days as guests of Italian Culinary Adventures, a fantastic program that combines great food experiences with cultural visits. We toured (and tasted) at an artisan prosciutto producer, a Parmesan cheese factory, and a Balsamic vinegar producer, had a delicious dinner at a winery in the hills, had a cooking class, toured Modena’s historic center and discovered the delights of its large covered market. Lunch one day was at a much-sought after dining room that you’re unlikely to be able to book for yourself. An unusual highlight of the 6-day program is a visit to Casa Artusi, the home of the father of Italian cuisine. And for car lovers there’s a visit to the Ferrari museum. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore Italian food, we highly recommend this program!
Where we stayed: Best Western Premier Milano Palace, well located for arriving by train or car and an easy walk to the historic center.
17 miles south of Bologna, the little town of Marzabotto is known for the worst massacre of civilians committed by the Waffen SS in Italy. There’s a somber monument dedicated to the nearly 800 civilians who were killed. Leading into town is a charming street of decorated tree stumps with little lending libraries built into them. We visited Marzabotto primarily to see the large Etruscan site, Kainua, dating from the 6th – 4th centuries BC. There’s a small museum, a large grid of streets with some remains of buildings, an acropolis, and two necropolis.
Where we stayed: Chiesa Ignano 1778, a former church that’s been turned into nice vacation apartments on the other side of Monte Sole
Varese is sometimes called the garden city for its public gardens and gardens of the art-nouveau houses and mansions. The extensive Estense gardens, behind the Palazzo Estense, are free to visitors and offer walking paths, statuary, gardens, and a beautiful fountain at the main entrance. A visit to the archaeological museum in the 17th century Villa Mirabello, also surrounded by gardens, is very interesting. Walking through the historic center you’ll find shops, restaurants, bars, monuments, and churches.
Where we stayed: Central Loft, at the start of the pedestrian area, was one of the most comfortable vacation apartments we’ve ever used.
Viterbo, north of Rome, boasts Italy’s largest intact medieval center, surrounded by walls built in the 11th-13th centuries. Wandering around the large medieval quarter you’ll see small streets with interesting shops and restaurants, piazzas, churches, and monuments. One of the top monuments is the 13th century Papal Palace. Piazza del Plebiscito is ringed with historic buildings and from the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Priori there are great views. Near Viterbo we visited Villa Farnese, the Roman site of Ferento, and Castel d’Asso Etruscan tombs.
Where we stayed: Antica Dimora San Pelligrino, an apartment in a 12th century tower right in the historic center
- Rick Steves Italy
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italy
- Rome Books – Food, Memoirs, and Unusual Guides
- Venice Historical Fiction
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